This week we’ve all been talking about how prolific and fascinating the Donkey Kong franchise has shown itself to be over the years. And we have every right to do so. After all, not every average ape could keep up with several physically intense series, practise his necessary sporting skills so he can kick Mario’s behind when required and still manage to eat enough bananas to keep going.
And that’s all great. Impressive, even. Credit to the Kong, in that respect. It’s just not what intrigues me about DK and all his monkeying about. What gets me thinking are all the barrels.
Because the Donkey Kong series does have a fair few barrels to its name, enough for one to even question where they’ll all coming from. (Is there a whole sale market selling them by the… barrel-load anywhere?) And it’s not like they’re even just sitting about or being used for convenient storage. In Kong’s jungle, everything is made from our favourite wooden, round container.
Take Donkey Kong’s vehicles in the Mario Kart franchise as a prime example. Whatever way you try and shake it, that’s a monkey in a barrel with wheels, people. I cannot even imagine how one begins to try and fit an engine or suspension onto a barrel, let alone make such a thing roadworthy. Are barrel cars environmentally friendly? Technically they are biodegradable, but I wouldn’t like to see the Carbon Dioxide output of a car that runs on bananas.
On a more bizarre scale is the DK cannon that often makes an appearance in Mario Kart games. (On a side note, I would argue that any Mario Kart game that lacks the joy of a DK cannon isn’t a Mario Kart game.) Yes, being fired out of a wooden cannon with your driver’s legs flailing in the air is as giddy a feeling as one can feel when not on a trampoline, but it’s just not right. Not only is there no explanation as to how one is “fired” from the cannon, but the fact that drivers are expected to willingly proceed into a crudely ape-built device and just hope they make it across the massive abyss below is utter madness.
And that’s just in the Mario Kart series, where presumably a series of health and safety guidelines are protecting innocent, vulnerable drivers. While levels run by the likes of Daisy or Yoshi are generally up to code, Donkey Kong’s offerings in recent entries of the karting franchise have been seen as rather shoddy. These ramshackle excuses for race tracks not only show Donkey Kong’s ability to use wood and other primitive materials to build key aspects of his courses but also his reckless attitude to the welfare of other competitors. (Because I don’t believe for a minute that you think those two planks of wood will at all withstand an impact from Bowser, Mr. Donkey Kong.)
Back on his own soil, Donkey Kong took full advantage of the lack of safety guidelines and came up with his most dangerous invention to date: The Barrel Jet Pack. Trust a bunch of fecal-slinging primates, and of course their crocodilian nemeses, to think that flying through the sky while being propelled by a pair of barrels engineered by a hairy ape in a bamboo hut was a good plan. Some members of the Kong family were disappointed with the critical response to their barrel jet pack extravaganza, Donkey Kong Barrel Blast. May I suggest that complaints about the lack of control over characters was down to the fact that instead of having a vehicle with wheels and suspension, you had a couple of banana containers strapped to your back? Mad monkeys…
Maybe it’s down to the developers of these games more so than Donkey Kong himself though? When Nintendo and its external developers are at the helm of a Kong game, their immense genius always seems to overspill into building vast contraptions out of barrels. This just ends up making the primate look like some mad scientist, always trying to invent the next new thing in jungle convenience. And I doubt he’d even be able to find a lab coat with big enough arm holes to fit on him.
And what barrel-derived contraption did Namco invent when they were in charge of Donkey Kong? A bongo. Well done, Namco, you managed to stretch something over the top of a barrel and yeah, that was it really. Unimpressive, yes. But at least it’s safer than a jetpack.